"In BP’s Record, a History of Boldness and Costly Blunders"

"Hurricane Dennis had already come and gone on July 11, 2005, when a passing ship spotted a shocking sight in the Gulf of Mexico: Thunder Horse, BP’s hulking $1 billion oil  platform, was listing precariously  to one side, looking for all the world as if it were about to sink.

Towering 15 stories above the water’s surface, Thunder Horse was meant to be the company’s crowning glory, the embodiment of its bold gamble to outpace its competitors in finding and exploiting the vast reserves of oil beneath the waters of the gulf.

Instead, the rig, which was supposed to produce about 20 percent of the gulf’s oil output, became a symbol of BP’s hubris. A valve installed backward had caused the vessel to flood during the hurricane, jeopardizing the project before any oil had even been pumped. Other problems, discovered later, included a welding job so shoddy that it left underwater pipelines brittle and full of cracks. ...

The problems at Thunder Horse were not an anomaly, but a warning that BP was taking too many risks and cutting corners in pursuit of growth and profits, according to analysts, competitors and former employees. Despite a catalog of crises and near misses in recent years, BP has been chronically unable or unwilling to learn from its mistakes, an examination of its record shows. "

Sarah Lyall, Clifford Krauss, and Jad Mouawad report for the New York Times July 12, 2010.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010